A mother of three from Uganda was accused of cutting her daughter in 2017. She had attempted to cover-up the crime by a bizarre witchcraft ritual. Ultimately, she was convicted through testimony of the child as well as a surgeon who initially examined the child when she was brought to the hospital with severe bleeding.
The child, who was identified only as a toddler at the time of the cutting, has since been placed with another family. Her mother faces up to 14 years in prison.
The toddler was subjected to Type II FGM which involves the mutilation of the clitoris and removal of the labia minora.
The trial marked the first conviction for an FGM crime in the UK. To date there have only been three other FGM cases in the UK. Each of those trials ended in acquittal.
As to why so few cases have come to court, the lead police inspector for FGM in the London metropolitan area, Allen Davis, commented, “Many individuals of ‘honor’- based abuse just want to feel safe. This is a massive barrier to people giving evidence against their mum. People do not necessarily want to see their mums go to prison.
“This is an issue around honor and shame and we are dealing with communities that be quite closed. It’s a real challenge for people to stand up and talk about what’s happening in communities when it might mean they face ostracisation.”
The first conviction for FGM in the U.S. occurred in 2006. Khalid Adem, an Ethiopian American, become both the first person prosecuted and first person convicted for FGM in the U.S. Adem, an Ethiopian immigrant, circumcised his two-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors. He was found guilty of aggravated battery and cruelty to children by the State of Georgia, which had no specific law on FGM at the time. In 2010, Georgia successfully passed a law criminalizing FGM.
Most recently, in a high-profile case from Michigan — which marked the first federal prosecution for FGM in the U.S. — ended in acquittal when the judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The federal anti-FGM law was couched inside the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote, “As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault. FGM is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”
“FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress,” Friedman added.
Congress passed the anti-FGM law in 1996, but this was the first time the federal statue was tested.
The doctor charged in the case still faces two lesser charges to which she pleaded not guilty: conspiracy to travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and obstruction. Others in the case also face obstruction charges.
To date, 27 states in the U.S. have made FGM illegal. Michigan passed an anti-FGM law last year after the doctor and her co-defendants were charged by the federal government. The Michigan law mandates stiffer punishment than the federal law, making those guilty of performing FGM liable to 15 years in prison versus five years as mandated by the federal law. However, the Michigan law cannot be applied retroactively.